Islamic Medicine - Cultural Academy


Islamic Medicine
Staff member
Islamic Medicine - Cultural Academy

Medicine, as we know it today, did not develop overnight. It took the aggregate effort of countless mmen and women over thousands of years. Islamic physicians, in particular, contributed much to the world's knowledge of medicine.

Medicine Before Islam

To truly understand Islam's contributions to medicine, we must have an accurate picture of the state of medicine before Islam. We will consider the two most general necessities for providing reasonable health care, manpower and hospitals.

Manpower before Islam: Before Islam, good centers of physicians were spread out from one another. For example, centers where physicians practiced and discussed medicine existed only in such places as Alexandria, Egypt, and Jundi Sfhapur, Persia. While these centers were quite advanced, the lack of a unified Government or empire in the area curtailed communications between the physicians, thereby making medical advancements all the more difficult.

Hospitals before Islam: Hospitals as we know them now probably were not present. While there were places for the sick to stay, these places were mainly temples or annexes to temples that were run by priests. Gods were supposed to play a major role in the art of healing. In those days, sanctuary, prayers, inactation, and hypnosis were integral parts of the therapy. Unfortunately, many of these rituals were not based in fact and did not result in the healing of the sick. Furthermore, some of these places did not care for certain patients due to race or religion.In terms of manpower, Islam contributed many ingenious physicians. You can read about these doctors in the sections entitled Al-Razi, Ibn Sina, and Other Physicians.​

We will now study Islam's contributions to hospitals. The Muslims fostered the development of the modern hospital by adding several key characteristics to them.

Secular: Hospitals served all peoples irrespective of color, religion, or background. They were run by the government rather than by the chruch, and their directors were commonly physicians assisted by persons who had no religious color. In hospitals, physicians of all faiths worked together with one aim in common: the well-being of patients.

Separate wards: Patients of different sexes occupied separate wards. Also, patients suffering from different diseases, especially infectious ones, were allocated different wards.

Separate nurses: Male nurses were to take care of male patients, and female nurses female patients.

Baths and water supplies: Praying five times a day is an important Pillar of Islam. Sick or healthy, it is an Islamic Obligation. Before praying, the washing of the face, the head, the hands, and the feet must be done, if possible. For certain conditions, a bath is obligatory. Therefore, these hospitals had to provide the patients and employees with plentiful water supply and with bathing facilities.

Practicing physicians: Only qualified physicians were allowed by law to practice medicine. For example, in 931 A.D., the Caliph Al-Mugtadir from the Abbasid dynasty, ordered the Chief Court-Physician Sinan Ibn-Thabit to screen the 860 physicians-of Baghdad, and only those qualified were granted license to practice.

Hospitals as medical schools: The hospital became not only a place for treating patients, but also for educating medical students, interchanging medical knowledge, and developing medicine as a whole. To the main hospitals, there were attached expensive libraries containing the emost up-to-date books, auditorium for meetings and lectures, and housing for students and house-staff.

Proper records of patients: For the first time in history, these hospitals kept records of patients and their medical care.

Pharmacy: During the Islamic era, the science and the profession of pharmacy had developed to an outstanding degree. The Arabic materia medica became rich, and new drugs and compounds were introduced because the Muslims had contact with almost all the known world at that time, either through control or trade. The picture below is an artist's depiction of an Islamic pharmacy.